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Hawksbill turtle

Latin name: Eretmochelys imbricata

IUCN Red List conservation status

About: Hawksbill turtle

We hold one key principle: not only do we work with the turtles, we work with the people too.

José Urteaga

Nicaragua’s Programme Manager, Fauna & Flora International

An image relating to Hawksbill turtle

We thought they had vanished but today hawksbill turtles can be found swimming throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. They are known as travellers and move long distances from their feeding sites to nesting grounds.

Hawksbill turtle facts:

  • They are the only species of marine turtle that have a brilliantly coloured shell, also known as tortoise shell
  • Hawksbill turtles have a pointy beak and a narrow head, perfect for finding food, which is often located in hard to reach places
  • Prior to 2007 hawksbills were thought to be extinct in the eastern Pacific by most marine turtle scientists

The major threat to hawksbill turtles is the collection of their eggs. They are also killed for their meat and stunning shells, which are used for making jewellery and other products. Being caught in fishing nets as by-catch by near-shore or industrial fisheries is also causing huge problems for these reptiles.

In May 2010 Fauna & Flora International (FFI) started a trial project in the Estero Padre Ramos Natural Reserve. Working with local communities the aim is to locate and protect the hawksbill turtles for future generations.

In late 2010 FFI discovered nesting sites on a Cambodian island and is working to protect them as part of its new Cambodian coastal and marine project.

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Did you know?

Hawksbill turtles help coral reefs by eating sponges. Sponges often grow over coral, competing for space, but the turtles help maintain the balance. The hawksbill is only one of a small number of animals that enjoys eating sponges. This is because sponges have a skeleton made up of tough, elastic fibres and siliceous spicules – quite an unpleasant mouthful!

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